The American country music singer, songwriter, and television host, Bill Anderson is one of the legendary figures in the entertainment industry with a career that spans over 6 decades. Despite his flourishing career, he has faced a lot of challenges in his personal life. The father of three has been married twice, with both ending in divorce.
If you are a lover of country music, then it’s possible that you have a full list of songs recorded or written by Bill who is considered one of the most successful songwriters in country music history. Among some of his renowned songs are “City Lights”, “Still”, “I Love You Drops”, “I Get the Fever” and “Wild Week-End”.
A Brief Biography of Bill Andreson
Bill Anderson is the oldest of two children born to his parents Elizabeth and James William Anderson Jr. on November 1, 1937. The 86-year-old was born James William Anderson III but adopted the name Bill when critics and writers nicknamed him “Whispering Bill” because of his soft-spoken singing voice.
Bill grew up in Columbia, South Carolina alongside his younger sibling, Elizabeth Anderson. However, the family moved to Griffin, Georgia when Bill was in his third grade, to live with his grandparents for a while and later moved to their home in Decatur, Georgia. It was there that his father who previously worked as an insurance agent opened his own insurance agency firm.
The singer once described his childhood as average hinting that he never went to bed hungry even though his family didn’t have enough.
As for his education, he completed high school in Georgia and later enrolled at the University of Georgia where he graduated with a degree in journalism.
Bill’s Passion For Music Was Ignited at an Early Age
Bill developed a passion for singing at an early age thanks to the influence of some of his favorite country musicians and his grandparents who were musicians. By the age of 10, he had already penned down his first song “Carry Me to My Texas Home” and this was the beginning of his career in the industry which has spanned several decades.
However, before fully embracing music, he was interested in sports during his high school years. He excelled in baseball and was even scouted by the Chicago Cubs, a dream opportunity for many aspiring athletes at the time. Yet, Bill declined the offer realising that pursuing a career in baseball would mean sacrificing his education and and disappointing his family.
It was while studying at the University that he started exploring his passion for music. He formed a country band named “Classic City Playboys” alongside other students and they would often perform at local venues. After college, he started working as a rock and roll disc jockey at WGAU, a nearby radio station. However, he got fired after playing country records on the strict rock and roll station.
A Look at His Singing Career
Bill Anderson’s career started in the late 1950s. He released two signings for the music label TNT before he was signed into Decca Records by Owen Bradley who was impressed by his songwriting skills. He released his first song “That’s What It’s Like to Be Lonesome” with the records. This was followed by other hit songs such as “Ninety Nine”, “Dead or Alive”, “The Tip of My Fingers”, “Mama Sang a Song” and “Still” which became the biggest single in his recording career as number one on the Billboard country and western songs chart in 1963.
The success of the song “Still” led to his debut studio album released of the same name. It also led to the release of other studio albums which earned him more success and recognition. Some of these include “Bill Anderson Sings”, “Showcase”, “I Love You Drops” and more recently “Life”, “Anderson” and The Hit’s Re-Imagined”.
During this time, he promoted his songs through concerts in several countries and later formed his own touring band “The Po’ Boys” in 1961. He also received a number of awards from major music publications such as Billboard, Cashbox, and Music Reporter. Unfortunately, his songs in the late 70’s were negatively criticized by critics who described them as boring and frightening. This brought a decline to the sales success and he was eventually dropped from the label.
Bill Anderson’s Song Writing Career
Following Bill’s drop from the label, he decided to shift his attention to songwriting, a passion he explored since his professional career as a singer. Needless to say, he wrote most of his songs.
Bill became known as a songwriter after writing the song “City Light” for the country music icon, Ray Price. The success of the song soon earned him a contract from the Tree Writing music publishing company in Nashville. He revealed in an interview that he wrote the song during one night on the top of his little hotel roof in 1957 when he was just 19 years old. He noted that he wrote about the bright array of city light as far as he could see that night.
Following his contract, he became known as the writer of songs such as “I Misses Me”, I Don’t Love You Anymore”, I’ll Go Down Swinging”, “I Still Believe in Love”, “Count Your Blessings, Woman”, “Bad Seed” and “Once a Day”. His songwriting career brought a lot of artists to the spotlight including Lefty Frizzell, Jan Howard, and Connie Smith.
Aside from country musicians, he also wrote songs for pop artists such as Branda Lee, Cal Smith, Conway Twitty, James Brown, Aretha Frankin, and Dean Martin.
He also Explored Projects in Television
Bill picked up a new interest in television projects and slowed down on singing and songwriting. He later revealed in an interview that pop music was taking over country music at the time and found it difficult to write for other artists.
He started off with his own international television series known as “The Bill Anderson Show” which featured his duet partner, Jan Howard, and his touring band “The Po’s Boys. Around this time he also made appearances in several country music vehicle music and national television shows.
Bill later co-hosted the ABC game show “The Better Sex” and hosted ‘Fandango” until 1989 when he was invited to join the cast of the TNN competition program “You Can Be a Star” and appeared in the episode of “To Tell the Truth”.
Aside from his career as a singer, songwriter, and television host, he once revealed that he ventured into business but was unsuccessful. According to him, “I’ve tried to become a businessman a couple of times when I should have kept right on pickin’ and grinnin'”.
Bill Has Been Married and Divorced Twice
Bill’s personal life has seen its share of ups and downs, particularly when it comes to his marriage. Despite achieving great success in his career, his marital relationships have unfortunately faced challenges that led to divorce.
Bette Rhodes Anderson
He was first married to Bette Rhodes. According to the story, the pair first met in the 1950s through a mutual friend and soon started a relationship that saw them get married in December 1959 when Betty was only 19. The two who were both active in the entertainment industry co-wrote the 1965 song “I Can’t Remember”.
However, after 10 years of being married, the couple called it quits. They separated in 1968 and officially divorced in 1969. The reasons for their divorce were not initially stated however in 2016, Bill revealed that his ex-wife didn’t understand the music business and this caused them to quickly drift apart.
Shortly after Bill’s official divorce, he started a relationship with Becky and they got married in 1970. They maintained a great relationship and were supportive of each other’s careers. 14 years into their marriage, Bill’s then-wife got involved in a car accident which left 25 percent of her brain impaired.
While she was still recovering, their relationship suddenly turned sour. They separated sometime in the 1990s and officially divorced in 1997.
Following the end of his second marriage, he went into a relationship with Deborah Marlin. However, their relationship ended as soon as it started. They separated in 2003 after Bill was arrested for hitting her with his car door.
The Columbia native then moved on with Vickie Salas in 2008 whom he describes as his everything even though they never got married or lived together. Sadly, she passed on in 2019 after battling cancer for 3 years.
Bill Anderson is a Father of Three Children
Bill Anderson has managed to keep his personal life relatively private, especially when it comes to his children. The singer Bill Anderson is a proud father of three children who are products of his two marriages. However, little is known about them as they have chosen to stay away from the spotlight.
He fathered two daughters Terri Anderson and Jenny Anderson with his first wife Bette and a son, Jamey Anderson with his second wife, Becky. While specific details about them have not been widely disclosed, Bill revealed in an interview that of all the things he has been blessed with, he is most proud of his 3 children and 8 children whom he describes as the light of his life.
He also noted that he didn’t always have time for them because of his career pursuits. However, they have grown to be responsible people.